Juneteenth Tifo

We are all stronger together.

No matter the colour of our skin, our backgrounds or the crest over our hearts.

Together, we can raise awareness to make the world a better place, help educate each other and make a positive impact in the community.

That's exactly the type of message Vancouver Whitecaps FC forward Tosaint Ricketts plans to send out with the club's second annual commemorative Juneteenth Tifo in collaboration with FC Dallas and supporters of both clubs.

"[The purpose of the tifo is to] bring awareness, education to the holiday and basically represent those from the past who made the proper steps for us today," explained Ricketts, "The beauty of it is that it's a collaboration. It's two clubs coming together, two clubs that are competitors on the day, but are coming together to make a positive impact in the community. Two different groups coming together to educate and make change."

"We're enemies on the day on the pitch, but off the pitch, we're all humans and what we do together matters."

Both 'Caps players as well as supporters from Rain City Brigade, Southsiders, Southsisters and Vancouver Albion put together part of the tifo on Saturday, June 11 at the Greater Vancouver Food Bank in Burnaby, BC.

For the supporters and the players, the tifo construction became an experience where they could connect on a personal level, while also combining their energy towards raising awareness for Juneteenth.

"Connecting with the supporter groups and specific individuals was a really cool experience. We, the players that went, were able to drive out to the food bank and literally get down on our hands and knees and help them create something that, I think, is going to be really special," recalled 'Caps goalkeeper Cody Cropper.

"It's not only special because of the impact it has, it's special for the supporters who support us day in day out, whether we're winning, whether we're losing, to be able to connect with those supporters on a deeper level, rather than just seeing our numbers and our names on the back of our jerseys," said Ricketts.

"They get the chance to meet us as people and just have a normal day of connection. And through that, the experiences, the education and the growth together is, for me, very important."

Darcie Kerr, the head of the Southsisters supporters group, recalls the experience was amazing, given all the supporter groups came out and bonded with the players for a special cause.

"This is a very unique people project not just because it's for Juneteenth but because it's player driven, this is Tos' dream and his desire to connect with the community and educate people," said Kerr.

"This happening again, just brings us together as a community and it separates the divide between players and supporters, and it also helps us see the players as people."

Following the theme of Juneteenth, the tifo was made to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved Black people in the United States. The holiday was first celebrated in Texas in the aftermath of the Civil War in 1862, when slaves were declared free under the terms of the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation, and is also observed for celebrating Black culture.

For Ricketts, who serves as the club's manager of community impact, as well as Cropper, it's become a massive honour to see the holiday be recognized across Vancouver and the rest of MLS itself.

"It's huge, it shows you the progress we've made as a league, as our teams and just wanting the best and representing these holidays that have gone unnoticed for the last 50 to 60 years," stated Ricketts.

"I think spreading awareness for something like Juneteenth is incredibly important. Obviously, here in North America, we've had so many issues and continuing to spread awareness for something like this is really important because it not only brings it to the players attention, it also brings it to the supporters attention and brings it to the community's attention," described Cropper.

"Having the players get involved in the creation of a tifo like this and have other teams getting involved in the creation of a tifo like this and coming together really brings not only the players on this team together, with the supporters, with the community, but also it brings our club and our culture as individuals, as a team, as a city together with another MLS organization that is looking to do the same thing."

Mike Perzel, the designer of the tifo, iterated the importance of highlighting both Juneteenth and Pride in the tifo, as FC Dallas host their Pride night on Saturday.

"We went through a lot of design iterations and in the end, we decided that given the two causes that we're trying to highlight being Juneteenth and Pride, we really just wanted to make something that we ended up kind of bringing the design down to something that we thought would be very clear, something that would sort of say these two teams are coming together and they support these two causes," explained Perzel.

The tifo will be unveiled prior to Saturday's kickoff between the 'Caps and FC Dallas, which will be broadcasted on TSN4 and AM730.

The match will also see both teams wearing Juneteenth commemorative number cresting on each players kit.

Following the match, the tifo will be flown back to Vancouver as it is scheduled to make an appearance in the 'Caps next home match on Sunday, June 26 against New England Revolution.

"It's going to be special. For me, it's going to mean unity, collaboration, equality, equity, fighting to maintain the rights we worked hard to get," said Ricketts when asked what it'll feel like to see the tifo on display.

"We're all people. We all love soccer. We all want our team to win, but at the end of the day, we're all people and you got to want the best for humanity."